In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. They set out for the first time at the command of the LORD by Moses. The standard of the camp of the people of Judah set out first by their companies, and over their company was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Issachar was Nethanel the son of Zuar. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon.
And when the tabernacle was taken down, the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari, who carried the tabernacle, set out. And the standard of the camp of Reuben set out by their companies, and over their company was Elizur the son of Shedeur. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things, and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. And the standard of the camp of the people of Ephraim set out by their companies, and over their company was Elishama the son of Ammihud. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni.
Then the standard of the camp of the people of Dan, acting as the rear guard of all the camps, set out by their companies, and over their company was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ochran. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan. This was the order of march of the people of Israel by their companies, when they set out.
And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the LORD has promised good to Israel.” But he said to him, “I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.” And he said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the LORD will do to us, the same will we do to you.”
So they set out from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the LORD was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp.
And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” (Numbers 10:10-36 ESV)
The first time Israel picks up and marches after the fashion previously commanded by Yahweh is when they leave Mount Sinai to head toward Canaan. Judah takes the lead with the tabernacle right behind and all the rest of the tribes in their order. They follow the cloud of Yahweh. This time they travel three days, quite a feat for this many people, estimated at 2 million.
Moses seeks to persuade his brother-in-law to go with them as a scout, a valuable personnel in the desert. God told Abraham that whoever blessed him would be blessed and Hobab has the opportunity to receive Yahweh’s blessings on Israel. We have no further record as to whether he took Moses up on the offer or not.
Moses’ inspiring practice when the ark sets out is designed to remind Israel of just how powerful Yahweh is and how committed to Israel He is. They will need this faith when they reach Canaan to fight the Canaanites. We need this same encouragement and faith to fight our battles.
In fact, this is a list of leaders, Moses included, who stand before their people and lead the way, encouraging them in the journey to their destination. A leader is part motivational speaker, part courageous first-adopter, part recruiter of other leaders, but mostly someone whom God has commissioned to show the way to a better place. What vision has God given you and who has He given you to lead?